The greatest audience in the world has be a room full of 5 year olds. Add a dog or kittens into the mix and you are going to have the time of your life. You just never know what the next moment will bring.
Even though spay/neuter is the main goal of Planned Pethood, education is part of their mission as well. So when I was invited to visit Mrs. Charlotte Steinman’s kindergarten class at Beverly Elementary, I have to admit I was excited and a little nervous. Twenty-four of those fresh little faces could be a smidge bit intimidating. Truth be told, however, one of those faces was one of my best buddies, my great nephew Finn. There was no need to worry, the kids barely noticed I was even there.
Most of you have met Ida in my previous blogs. She is a seven year old black lab pulled from the pound with heartworm disease. After many painful treatments and months with me as a foster, she became a permanent member of my pack. Ida ALWAYS carries around a toy and she is ALWAYS wagging her tail. She thrives on attention and continuously gives out big sloppy kisses. It was a no brainer that she would be a great canine role model for the kids. With a toy in her mouth and a patriotic bandana on to highlight election day, we were off to kindergarten.
Mrs. Steinman is not just a kindergarten teacher, she is a saint. The woman is an incredible combination of patience, love, and discipline. Everything in her classroom is orderly and organized. She has to have the most wonderful karma ever. Before our visit, she cleared us with the principal, and she sent home permission slips to each parent to make sure none of her students had animal allergies or fear of dogs or cats. On our arrival, we encountered four tables which each seated six adorable and enthusiastic mini-people.
The topic Mrs. S and I chose was how to meet a new dog and how to care for a dog properly. So after the introductions; with Finn acting as my “master of ceremonies”; I asked my rapt audience, what was the first thing they did when they got up in the morning? Very polite responses included, getting dressed and brushing teeth. Good answers but, does Ida get dressed and brush her teeth? With a smattering of giggles, we agreed that most dogs don’t do that when they wake up. Things went on in that vein for a while until I asked the kids, isn’t there something you a leaving out? The students exchanged knowing glances but did not respond. So I asked them, what about potty? I certainly was not prepared for their reaction. That subject produced 24 screaming and laughing munchkins thoroughly enjoying themselves. Finn’s dad, Dave, later offered his take on the scene with the comment, “you had a low brow crowd, Judy”.
Proving this description quite accurate, the same hilarity ensued when we discussed how dogs greet each other when one little boy stated they sniff each other on the bum. We covered a great deal of territory including play, training, baths and more and the time flew by. Before we left, however, each one of our new friends came to the front of the room to meet Ida and give her some pets and even a few hugs. It is hard to say who enjoyed it more, Ida or the kids.
Things went so well with Ida, we were invited back, this time with three of my foster kittens, the N’s. To avoid confusion, Planned Pethood names every litter of kittens and puppies with the same letter of the alphabet. This was a perfect fit with our kindergarten buddies just learning their letters and sounds. There were originally five N’s but two had been adopted so eight week old Nessie, Netta, and Nena were off to Beverly Elementary. Again, I was a little concerned because while 2 of the N’s were sweet lovable poofballs, the third, Nessie, was a maniac. An affectionate nickname was the Loch Ness Monster. This baby had no fear of anything including a 95 lb. foster dog named Wanda. She would do drive byes, pounce and run. She would climb me or any other upright structure in the house. But again things went well, using the strategy that Mrs. S and I would hold the kittens as the kids came up to pet them. A final word on the LNM, she was adopted in Ann Arbor by a family who did dog rescue and she was a perfect fit.
We made a final visit to kindergarten right before their Christmas break. It was just a quick stop to drop off a treat for our small friends from the dogs and kittens (who has all been adopted by then). This time another member of my pack, Stanley, accompanied us as well. He is an endearing four year old shepherd mix who, like Ida, was rescued from the pound heartworm positive.
Ida, Stanley, and I want to give a shout out to Mrs. Steinman and her students for inviting us to such enjoyable excursions. We are positive that we have planted the seeds for a new generation of RESPONSIBLE pet lovers when they have become doctors, lawyers, CEO’s, and first responders!
By Judy S